According to the latest national statistics from the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), the average cost of a funeral increased by 3% from 2014 to 2017. This price includes the basic services of a funeral director and staff, transfer to the funeral home, embalming and other preparations of the body for a viewing, use of facilities for a service, hearse, utility vehicle, basic memorial printed package, a metal casket, and a burial vault. This cost does not include a cemetery plot ($1,000 and up), the opening and closing of the grave ($500 and up), a grave marker or headstone, and third-party charges such as obituaries, flowers, police escort, and honorariums for speakers and musicians, not to mention food and reception space for a gathering after the ceremony.
In the end, the cost of even a basic funeral today can easily add up to well over $10,000. So, you may be wondering…is there any way to save money on a funeral?
One of the most effective ways to save money on a funeral is by planning ahead and becoming familiar with your options ahead of time. If you are dealing with a death in the family right now, you can still apply these same principles to help you manage the costs of funeral expenses.
Prices for funeral services and merchandise vary greatly even within the same general vicinity. Every funeral home is required by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Funeral Rule to present you with a full price list upon request that is yours to keep. They must also give you price information over the phone upon request. Do a little investigating before deciding on your funeral home of choice to find the right fit for you. Be careful to compare apples to apples.
Some funeral homes offer package pricing, and it is important to understand what is included in that package and what is not. Also consider the quality of the facilities and the staff. The adage, “You get what you pay for,” is very true when it comes to choosing a funeral provider. Sometimes it may be worth it to you to spend a little more at a funeral home where you feel more comfortable with the staff or the facilities.
Learn About Veterans’ Burial Benefits
If you or your spouse is a veteran, you may be eligible for a free burial space at a state or national cemetery, burial vault or grave liner, opening and closing of the grave, and a government-furnished headstone, which can save you thousands of dollars in burial costs. Go to www.cem.va.gov or talk to a veterans’ benefits specialist or a funeral prearrangement specialist who is knowledgeable about veterans’ burial benefits to learn more. You can also check out our article on veterans’ burial benefits here.
Choose a Lower-Cost Option
There are a few options that offer savings to your bottom line. Cremation can spare you the cost of a casket, full burial space, opening and closing of the grave, and a vault. However, you may still opt for a lower-cost cremation niche or burial in a cremation garden so that loved ones have a permanent memorial to visit after the death. Another option that can offer some savings is a green burial. Green burial options are not only easier on the environment; they can also be easier on your wallet. Generally, green burial involves a biodegradable casket made of wood, bamboo, or wicker, and no burial vault or embalming. Some private cemeteries require a burial vault to maintain an even landscape. Be sure to ask your funeral director about the requirements of the cemeteries in your area.
Do It Yourself
There may be certain aspects of the funeral arrangements that you can do yourself. Or, you could engage your social network to help you with. For example, you may ask family members to bring potluck dishes to save on the cost of a caterer. If you want a tribute video, you may know someone who is good with video editing who can assist you. Or, you may choose to use an online video maker such as www.animoto.com or www.smilebox.com, which take your family photos and put them to music with animation. For personalized memorial printing, you might check out www.tinyprints.com or www.memorialcardcompany.com. While you may want to do a couple of things yourself, be sure to check with your funeral director to see if the funeral home staff can alleviate any or all of these burdens for you. Remember, your time is valuable too.
Where Cutting Corners May Not Pay Off
Many families think that opting for a cremation with no type of service is their best option for saving money. It’s true that a basic cremation is probably the least expensive option for disposition. But you might also want to weigh the emotional cost of not having a funeral or memorial service. Grief expert, Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt with the Center for Loss and Life Transition, shares in this article the six needs of a bereaved person and how the funeral helps to meet those needs.
The funeral is a rite of passage, just like a graduation ceremony or a wedding ceremony. It is a defining moment in the life of the bereaved. Skipping the funeral or memorial ceremony for a loved one can leave the bereaved feeling isolated and frustrated by unexpressed grief. If you are leaning toward cremation, be sure to allow an opportunity for the bereaved to gather together. The experience will be a meaningful time of reflection and mutual support.
To save money on funeral expenses, the best thing you can do is plan ahead. If you are dealing with a death right now, this advice comes a little too late, but it bears keeping in mind for the future. Once you’ve chosen your preferred funeral provider, ask to speak with a funeral prearrangement specialist. Most funeral homes offer free advance funeral planning services to their communities. Take advantage of this opportunity to understand your options and take care funeral costs in advance.
When you plan ahead, it is much easier to stick to a budget and choose only the options that you know you want. Planning ahead also prevents your family from paying for options that you do not want! For everyone involved, it helps to make decisions with a cool, calm, and collected head rather than in a time of grief. In addition, many funeral homes offer a price guarantee when you pay for services in advance. So, if you are young and in good health, this arrangement can potentially save your family 30% to 40% or more on funeral costs just by locking in the present-day price. You can read more about payment options for advance funeral plans here.